All It Takes Is A Good Line

I remember when I came up with the idea for my dark comic transgressive piece WEEKEND GETAWAYS, OR ADVENTURES IN CONTRACT KILLING.  I had just finished reading Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club”.  {This is not a discussion of the merits or virtues of book versus movie.  We’ll get into that later.}  I was impressed by the unnamed and virtually unidentified narrator.

All of a sudden, a line popped into my head.

I never gave much thought to killing people outside of the usual, of course.

I had no idea what that meant or even if there was a story in it.  But it grew and developed and it is an amazingly intriguing piece that evolved during the first and subsequent drafts.  {I’m hoping that it’s not too offbeat or quirky to attract representation but I honestly believe there is a market for it.}

Flash forward to Mother’s Day weekend this year.  The family is at the lake cabin in Oklahoma celebrating, well, the Mothers.  My almost fourteen year old nephew was jawing with his Dad, my brother-in-law.  He is a teenager and he’s good at it.  He blurts out:

I should have taken an angle grinder to your face when I had the chance.

Within forty-five seconds I was looking for a pencil and paper to write that line down.  I’ve been reflecting on it ever since.  My nephew knows that I write pretty violent crime fiction but his parents have not yet allowed him to read my work.  Understandable.  However, he just doesn’t realize how utterly appropriate the line is and that it WILL BE the starting point for the next work.

I’ve already envisioned the hero tied up in a chair being pummeled by his adversary and affecting a defiant attitude when he blurts out the line.  I don’t know who the hero is or his adversary nor what the quest is.

I’ve read in other writer’s blogs the discussions of starting with action.  But sometimes an intriguing line catches the attention more.  It opens up the mind to possibilities that the reader may consider and wish to discover more.  “Action” does not always have to be defined as physical movement; it could be emotional impact.

All it takes is a good line.



  1. lawrenceez said,

    May 18, 2010 at 4:01 am


    I agree with your final paragraph – that readers don’t always need physical action in the opening; sometime “emotional” action is better.

    I once watched about half of the film “Fight Club” but switched off. Loved the fights, but little else.


  2. tikiman1962 said,

    May 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    After all I’ve read about you and your writing and music, I am TOTALLY surprised that you would indicate that you “Loved the fights, but little else.” The book, however, scans a deeper sentiment, one that worms it’s way into your psyche and gives you serious pause to reconsider your own life.

    I’ll do an netry on movie vs. book at another time. It should create an interesting series of commentaries.


  3. David I said,

    May 19, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Those are excellent lines.

    A good opening line is worth a gazillion pounds of action. Action doesn’t matter much if you don’t know who the characters are yet.

    There are many ways a line can be good as an opening. One is obviously to be intriguing or pose an interesting question, but another is to simply project a strong voice; the first line of Catcher in the Rye would be a case of that, where it is nothing but voice.

    There are also some wonderful openings where the first line is only brilliant in the context of the following line or two. I have some examples, but it takes too long to cite them here. If you care, they are at:


  4. tikiman1962 said,

    May 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    David, once again, thank you for the excellent feedback. Your two entries from 2008 were filled with more tongue-in-cheek commentary and astute observation. Always enjoy hearing from you.


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